New Book Chronicles Legacy of Bourj Hammoud, Lebanon

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Bird’s Nest will bring to life legacy Bourj Hammoud

Neighborhood Became Home to Thousands of Genocide Survivors
TARZANA, Calif. – On the occasion of the Armenian Genocide Centennial and the 40th anniversary of the start of the Lebanese Civil War, filmmaker and documentarian Ara Madzounian is releasing a book of original photographs that chronicles Bourj Hammoud, the Beirut suburb which became home for Armenian Genocide survivors.

Madzounian, who was born in Bourj Hammoud to parents who survived the Armenian Genocide, has been at the helm of scores of Armenian and non-Armenian multimedia projects around the world. His resume includes directing films, documentaries, producing popular music and telethons and performing theatrical productions.

After wrapping up his feature cinematography work on the feature film Meltdown, to be released in August, he is turning his focus on BIRD’S NEST, a published book of talking pictures and essays by a selected group of academicians, writers and artists.

“I wanted to create a lasting legacy about this place,” says Madzounian. “For more than 50 years, Bourj Hammoud served as the cultural, intellectual and political beacon for the Armenian Diaspora.”

BIRD’S NEST is the culmination of Madzounian’s laborious and emotion-provoking work to capture the soul and preserve the memories of his birthplace, one of the first post-Genocide communities to be established.

A scene from Bourj Hammoud life from Ara Madzounian’s book Bird’s Nest

For generations, Bourj Hammoud was the safe harbor that allowed broken families to get on their feet again after one of the most tragic chapters in their history. In the safety of Lebanon, the community flourished before it abruptly found itself in the middle of their host nation’s civil war.

The survivors of the Armenian Genocide and their progeny were once again victimized when Lebanese brothers took up arms against one another. Many residents of the Armenian enclave of Bourj Hammoud were killed and injured; others were forced to leave their homes as they had during the Genocide.

Oscar nominated director Atom Egoyan says Madzounian’s photographs ‘are an amazing legacy to a vanishing pocket of Armenian culture’

“Ara’s photographs of the faces, the streets, the old buildings and the narrow alleyways of Bourj Hammoud recall to me all of the richness of the place, the personal histories and the grand narratives of the past hundred years,” says cultural anthropologist at the Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at New York University, Joanne Randa Nucho.

A Kickstarter campaign will launch on April 13, 2015, the 40th anniversary of the start of the Lebanese civil war that began in 1975 and continued until 1990. Crowdsourcing will fund the costs of publishing BIRD’S NEST, a book of photographs Nucho says capture “the ephemeral moments of life in this place.”

BIRD’S NEST is the product of Madzounian’s years of meticulous and insightful photography with the goal to capture the essence and historic importance of his own birthplace.

After leaving his nest, Madzounian earned a master’s degree in film at the University of California, Los Angeles. The filmmaker then spent years working on commercial and independent productions and directing and producing his own projects.

“These photographs are an amazing legacy to a vanishing pocket of Armenian culture,” says Oscar nominated director Atom Egoyan. “For those who have never visited Bourj Hammoud, the fabled Armenian neighborhood in Beirut, this collection will be overwhelming.”

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5 Comments

  1. State-Of-Emergency said:

    It’s amazing that a place that served as the cultural, intellectual and political beacon for the Armenian Diaspora has all but been ignored by most non-Lebanese Armenians. Especially since there is very limited to no interest of this community by most Eastern Armenians, including natives of Armenia and Iranian-Armenians. Note that I did not label them as Persian-Armenians, which would imply them being Persians. Persian is a race, Iran is a country. Same logic as Lebanese-Armenians and not Arab-Armenians. Nevertheless, the lack of interest and understanding of the culture, history and dialect of this historical place is a shame. It reflect the greater fragmentation of our culture and heritage.

  2. Jacque said:

    Can’t wait to get my hands on this book.
    Actually it’s funny that not only non lebanese Armenians don’t give BH the importance that it deserves
    even Lebanese Armenians from other parts of Lebanon forgot the importance of BH.
    Last time I was there was in 2009 and I felt History and Time were still frozen in place in that little corner where my grandparents settled after the Genocide and where I got my first dose of being a proud Armenian, which made me the person I am today.
    Bourge Hamoud was and always will be the savvier of the Armenian culture and people.
    I miss you BH.

  3. Relax said:

    @ State-Of-Emergency: I am an Iranian-Armenian and have read and heard a lot about Bourj Hammoud. I even visited BH 10 years ago. How about you? Have you been to New Julfa? How much do you know about the over 400 years of Armenian history and culture in New Julfa?

    • State-Of-Emergency said:

      New Julfa does not represent a major segment of Armenian culture, heritage and traditions. Bourj Hammoud, on the other hand, is synonymous with Western Armenian history. It is the primary place with a direct lineage to the Western Armenian heritage, Genocide and lost lands. I’m not discrediting New Julfa or Aleppo, but they are not necessary any more significant than Armenian communities in Moscow, Paris or Los Angeles. Bourj Hammoud is the cradle and last frontier of Western Armenia. If we lose Bourj Hammoud’s Armenian essence, we’ll lose the last bastion of Western Armenian heritage. There is a reason why the Holy See of Cilicia is still situated in Lebanon and refuses to merge with Etchmiadzin. Its presence there demonstrates the desire not to abandon the history of Western Armenia. The raison d’être of Bourj hammoud has always been and will always be to preserve all that the Ottoman’s tried to destroy.

      If Armenians around the world cherish and support our history and cause, then they must take notice and appreciate Bourj Hammoud’s role in maintaining a significant part of our culture and heritage.

    • P said:

      I’m PROUD TO BE FROM BOURJ HAMMOUD. It taught me to be proud ARMENIAN and be COURAGEOUS to fight against anyone who discriminated against any ARMENIAN. Unlike other ARMENIAN cowards who are afraid to use the word GENOCIDE in the country they live in.

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